(Thanks to MOSS81 for inspiring me to write this)
There has been a recent flurry of acquisitions by rival teams (and by "flurry", I mean Santonio Holmes and Brandon Marshall) and our own New England Patriots seem to be content to stay put. Now this must be frustrating for everyone, seeing other teams getting better, while we remain constant. It's aggravating to see other pundits give away our AFC East title crown to the Jets, when we still have claim (sorry to Dolphins fans last year when we didn't give your team credit. It's annoying.).
Despite all the movement, there's one mantra that Patriots fans everywhere say:
In Belichick, we trust.
Our team is currently a ball of clay. It's unformed and without an identity. We've had our locker room veterans leave en masse, we've struck out in past free agencies and the fruits of some recent drafts have left the cupboards bare, leaving us with only a small core of players, packed together with many band-aid players.
This ends with this draft.
We have a chance to grab twelve players who fit the Patriots way. Twelve players to fill the team needs. Twelve players to play for the future. Twelve players who will become the core of our team. We have youth leadership in Jerod Mayo who is blossoming before our eyes. We have veteran leadership in the newly resigned Vince Wilfork. We have a model which our front office is trying to complete. Bill Belichick is the architect. He's the mastermind behind the team, finding the pieces to bring this team back to the top. He's the modeler for our clay.
There were top notch players available in free agency and players who could have been acquired via trade. We didn't bite.
See why, after the jump.
We've let Julius Peppers go the Chicago Bears. Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall go to the Dolphins. Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie go to the New York Jets. Dunta Robinson went to the Atlanta Falcons. Joey Porter went to the Arizona Cardinals. Anquan Boldin went to the Ravens. We could have utilized our many draft picks to pick up top notch restricted free agents. We could have put forth the money to acquire the unrestricted free agents. We could have dangled some of our players to grab some players in the trade market. We did none of that.
Why didn't we try and grab these top tier players? Wouldn't they have been worth any type of deal if it pushed us over the edge and back on top?
Let's start with Holmes.
The acquisition of Holmes would have required a 4th round selection because we don’t currently have a 5th rounder. That also means that we’d be getting a player suspended for the first 4 games of the season, with the potential for more depending upon his other law suits. A 4th round pick for a 12 game loan just isn’t our front office’s style, especially when we’re trying to build a team for the long run. Also, trading our 4th means that we wouldn’t have a pick in the 3rd, 4th or 5th round- where we get the majority of our depth. I don’t see us sacrificing the middle of the draft to get an off-the-field troubled receiver (Moss was a disgruntled player on the field, but wasn’t bad off it).
Brandon Marshall would have required us giving up a couple of second round selections- that’s if the Dolphins didn’t bargain upwards if we put forth an offer. Yes, we could have absolutely used Marshall and, yes, I think Marshall was a much better pick-up than Holmes.
However, the price showed that extreme difference in player quality. Marshall just recently signed an extension to make himself the most expensive wide receiver in the league. The Krafts aren’t going to break the bank for a prima donna wide receiver- especially not when, as you say later, we’re trying to build up a strong locker room. We’re look for leaders and players who are willing to play for the team- not themselves. Marshall is not that kind of player.
So grabbing Marshall and Holmes would represent two things our team is not trying to do- get locker room cancers and break the bank for non-team players. Also, with all of the needs we have, we can’t afford to use band-aid players in the pass rush- we need to draft them and groom them for the future. Trading our 2nd round picks would greatly limit our potential for top notch players who can fill that role for many years to come.
Looking at the defense, MOSS81 said:
Last season the lack of leadership was a sore spot that was glaringly obvious…
And followed that up with:
…why not help them with people like Julius Peppers or Antonio Cromartie.
To me, it seems as if MOSS81, as well as some other fans, is trying to say that Peppers and Cromartie would be the players to step into the leadership role on our defense.
That would never be the case.
Cromartie is notorious for having all of his illegitimate children (the Jets organization had to front him a hefty sum so he could pay his child support) and he doesn’t seem like the kind of the player the Patriots would want mentoring their younger players. He doesn’t give 100% of his effort if he doesn’t feel like it and, when he won’t have the spot light in New England, you can be sure he wouldn’t like it.
Cromartie was traded for a future 3rd rounder, that could become a 2nd rounder, which translates roughly into a 4th rounder this year. I say we’d be dealing with this year because our front office doesn’t like to (as in- never) trade our future picks. As is the case with Holmes, Cromartie would be a one year loan.
I don’t see the team grabbing a poor team player with off-the-field troubles (that can’t go away, unlike like Holmes). Cromartie wouldn’t be a leader of the defense- he’d want all the attention.
Peppers, on the other hand, is also well known for being a locker room problem (who would cost more than an arm and a leg). He was called out for not trying, which is something that some players on our team have done in the past, but is a fact that still must be looked at. Peppers wanted to play rush OLB in the 3-4, which means he would have filled a McGinest type role. However, Peppers would have cost the same as Brandon Marshall- ie: too much. Peppers is averaging $15m a year while in Chicago. In comparison, that’s $3m more a year than Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Randy Moss combined. That’s more than Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren and Mike Wright combined. Peppers would have set the tone for contracts everywhere else on the team- and would have shattered our budget.
Grabbing Peppers, and all the other players, for such a high cost would go against what the Patriots have in mind for their team. They want a team-first group of guys; none of the top flight free agents put their team first. After everything the front office and all of the players have said about transforming the locker room into a team, going out and taking players who don’t fit that mold would make everything said meaningless. Would you believe Wilfork saying he’s ready to put the team first, when he wanted to get paid, if Peppers was getting twice as much as him with 0% of the leadership? I don’t think so.
So yes, it appears we’re letting some of the top players slip by. It’s on purpose. Every move, or lack of a move, have a purpose. Each player we let walk has some flaw that makes our front office shy away from them. They might be too expensive and would hurt the team in the long run with their lucrative contracts. They could have off the field issues that would set a bad example for the young players. They could just be the wrong type of player for the schemes we run. Regardless, the front office has a goal and they’re molding the team to reach that goal. Taking on these troubled stars would just set us back.
So allow these teams to trade their future for band-aids. That hasn't worked in the past. Let these teams acquire troubled players. It will come back to haunt them.
Let us grab players who fit the Patriot way. That has worked in the past.
It will work again.